mental health

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Bringing together physical and mental health

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Priority 6: Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of carers

The problem

More than 6 million people in the UK provide informal care to someone with a

health condition or disability. For many, doing so can have a significant impact on

their own mental health and wellbeing. In comparison with the general population,

people with substantial caring responsibilities have higher levels of stress and

depression and lower levels of subjective wellbeing, as well as poorer physical health

(Cormac and Tihanyi 2006). In some situations – particularly in the context of

palliative care – supporting the mental health and wellbeing of carers is an explicit

part of a patient’s care plan. However, this is often not the case, and in general carers

are provided with limited support. For example, two-thirds of carers responding

to one survey reported that staff had not directed them to relevant sources of

information or advice (NHS Improving Quality 2014).

Impact on people

Survey data illustrates the toll that caring responsibilities can take on mental health

and wellbeing. More than 9 out of 10 carers report that caring has a negative impact

on their mental health, including stress and depression (Carers UK 2013), while

75 per cent of carers said it was hard to maintain social relationships (Carers UK

2014). This in turn can affect their ability to provide care and lead to the admission

of the person they are caring for to hospital or residential care (Department of Health

2012). Health impacts are often exacerbated by carers being unable to find time for

medical check-ups or treatment (Carers UK 2012).

Impact on the health system

The health and care system is highly dependent on informal care provided by family

and friends. The value of this care is estimated to be around £119 billion per year –

more than total spending on the NHS (Buckner and Yeandle 2011). Neglecting to look

after the mental health and wellbeing of people making this significant contribution

to the system risks adding to the burden of work conducted in the formal sector.

The case for change: 10 areas where integration is needed most 32

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